Fenil and Bollywood

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Kaminey2
Shahid as Charlie in ‘Kaminey’

Insiya Amir | TNN (THE TIMES OF INDIA; September 19, 2009)


With homosexuality getting increased acceptance in the country, isn’t it time for Bollywood to get a gay, macho character? Actually, it might already have—in Charlie, the lisping ‘bad boy’ hero in this year’s hit, Kaminey.

From bloggers to critics, many have speculated about the sexuality of the character portrayed by Shahid Kapoor. To begin with, Charlie lisps—a standard gay stereotype. Apart from that, his relationship with Mikhail has distinctly homoerotic undertones. The two sing duets in a psychedelic nightclub, dance in the rain and make plans to run away—while rolling on the floor together— when Charlie tells Mikhail about the stash of cocaine he has chanced upon? And a scene where Mikhail
chases Charlie in a red sports car, amid pouring rain, would have had Freud smiling in glee.

What about the ending, which shows Charlie hitched to a gorgeous gal? Blogger Ganesh Chandrashekhar argues that it’s a postdeath dream. ‘‘Charlie dreams of being a successful bookie and married to a woman. This looks like Charlie’s homosexual guilt coming through, because the addition of a female character in the end seemed rather contrived, suggesting that he hopes to be straight in a highly homophobic society.’’

Other bloggers have pointed to Charlie’s emotional breakdown when he sees Mikhail’s corpse. And they see heavy symbolism in Charlie naming his dream bookie venture ‘Mikhail & Co.’, which is set up after he steals diamonds. Which by implication means Charlie stole
diamonds for Mikhail. If that isn’t true love, what is?

Chandan Roy Sanyal, who plays Mikhail, says he is aware of such arguments. ‘‘I don’t think the two
are gay, they just share a brotherly relationship. I grew up like this with my brother, a lot of bonding, touching,’’ he laughs. But he welcomes the buzz about the characters. ‘‘People thinking that Charlie is gay shows they are ready to accept that gay men do not have to be overtly effeminate,’’ says Sanyal, adding that he would love to play a role like Sean Penn in the Hollywood film Milk.

But Bollywood is only taking baby steps with movies like Dostana, says film critic Anupama Chopra. ‘‘We still portray gay men with limp wrists and rainbowcoloured accessories, mostly cast as a comic relief. It is a long time till we get a gay hero who is macho enough to be the lead actor. In fact, Vishal Bhardwaj told me if a sequel is made, Charlie will have a girlfriend,’’ she says. As conspiracy theorists might say, ‘‘Fo fad”.
Anupam Kher writes from London on his experience of working with Woody Allen on his new film
Posted On August 27, 2009 (MUMBAI MIRROR)

A few months ago, my agent in London, Ruth Young, told me that Woody Allen had cast me in his untitled film as Freida Pinto’s father. That news came to me on May 24, as I was hosting the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the release of my first film Saaransh. No award that I had received in my quarter century in cinema could have made me happier than this bit of news.

Buried as I was with work, the excitement abated only to resurface on August 23, when I was set to go to London for the shoot. It suddenly hit me that I was going to work with someone I had adored and almost worshipped for decades. Then, a strange nervousness gripped me; just like it did during the first day’s shoot of Saaransh. But that was understandable when I was a rookie being directed by Mahesh Bhatt. Now I had acted in almost 400 films. Yet I was nervous.

To understand this reaction, I spoke to my mentor Mahesh Bhatt and asked him how I should behave when I would be on Woody Allen’s sets. Nervous, confident or important? Mahesh said, “Just be the way you are: inquisitive, nervous, and, be yourself.”

I reached London the next morning and was taken for a ‘costume and look’ trial. I was told that Woody Allen would see me the next day as he only meets actors directly on the sets on the day of the shoot. But I pleaded and they reluctantly took me to a holding area near the location. The scene that was being shot was the exterior of a restaurant on a busy street in Notting Hill.

I was introduced to Freida who was warm and turned out to be a great admirer of my work. She introduced me to her co-star, Josh Brolin and I told him that he was brilliant in Milk. I then went out on the crowded street and some Bangladeshis waved to me. But there was an overpowering silence. I was searching for the man who I had seen only in films and whose books I had read and who was my icon. And suddenly I saw him. He was in his trademark beige trousers, light blue shirt and brown shoes. His specs were black. His hair had gone whiter and strangely, he looked taller and larger.

I had never seen anyone in my life who was as focussed as him. For him, the world did not exist, the crowds did not exist. There were no security guards around him. All that mattered was the frame of his shot. Even the crowd sensed his concentration. In respect, passersby moved in silence.

The executive producer was apprehensive, knowing Woody’s reluctance to meet actors in advance. On seeing the waving Bangladeshis, she knew I was as famous in the sub-continent as I had been made out to be and that made her apologetic as well.

There was a gap in the shoot; Woody had turned to his iPhone and was listening with great concentration to some music. The costume girl then walked up to him and showed him my pictures with the ‘look’ and told him that I was on location. I was wondering what his reaction would be.  My tongue was swollen and my mouth was dry.

He turned around and tried to match the face with the picture he had seen. And then, he spotted me and smiled. I tried to portray the confident look of Anupam Kher the veteran of almost 400 films and the winner of many awards. But all I managed was the anxious look that I had when I had watched my first shooting as a 16-year-old in Shimla. That was Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore and Rakhee in Yash Chopra’s Daag.

I wondered if Woody’s smile was out of politeness. But there was warmth in his eyes. I felt as if it took me a year to cover the five feet that separated us and I can vividly remember each step. His grip was firm and before I could say anything, he said, “It is a pleasure meeting you.” I heard myself saying, “I can’t believe it!” Woody insisted and repeated, “I am really am happy to see you!”

I told him I had seen all his movies, and he kept nodding, as he had heard such comments many times in his career. Then he looked at me as if to say, “Can I go back to my work…”

The next day I did my scenes with him and I realised that all what I had experienced as an actor in the decades was not of much use as one could not depend on any one school of acting. In my eye flashed scenes from Annie Hall, Manhattan, Sleeper, Crimes and Misdemeanors…

Suddenly the sun got brighter and the shooting stopped. I asked an assistant the reason and was told that Woody does not shoot in bright light. Imagine, everyone loves to shoot in bright light, save Woody Allen!

I discovered that I had left my camera in Mumbai and decided that it would be a pity to shoot pictures of the occasion on my cell. And as the day ended, Woody was more vocal. I told him that Indian cinema was changing and how we were making the kind of movies we always wanted. His cogent response was that it could only happen when the audience changes. He spoke of his early years in New York when he would watch films by Satyajit Ray and Kurosawa. “But now, it is the time of $200 million blockbusters,” he said.

Later that evening, I bought a camera and clicked some pictures. I also got some books for Woody to autograph and gifted him copies of the Ramayana and the Gita. One of the vintage memories of that day I will carry is when Woody was shooting a scene with lots of people and he wanted, in his typical style, for the camera to move from one speaking person to another. At the end of it, he told his cameraman, “You were a little lost…but I liked the chaos.”

Indeed, working three days with Woody Allen has been my most memorable experience in cinema. And I wish to thank Indian cinema for making all this happen. As I have said in my one-man play, “Kuchh bhi ho sakta hai…” Or, as my grandmother would say, “Allah meherban to gadheda pahelwan!”

As she gets ready to unleash her sense of humour on unsuspecting viewers with a new chat show starting tomorrow night, where she gets stars and other people to reveal unknown facets about themselves, Farah Khan takes time to introspect on her own life
By Indu Mirani (MUMBAI MIRROR; August 22, 2009)
•      Let’s start with your favourite decade, the 1970s. In 1970 you came from this extremely rich family and by 1971, they were paupers. How did this happen?

I was five years old in 1970 when my dad (actor-producer Kamran Khan) had a spate of hits. The films were not A-grade movies but he was doing very well in his own right. I remember we had the first Impala car. Sajid had just been born and I was this absolutely spoilt child. Then in 1971 he made a film called Aisa Bhi Hota Hai into which he put all his personal money and the film bombed on the opening Friday. I remember it because I had gone to the theatre on Friday very excitedly with my grandmother and the theatre was empty. By Monday people stopped coming to our house. It was like a funeral. Our house usually used to be full of people. But by Monday, it was empty. And then there were bad times for 15 years till 1985, when he died. It was a very hard time, especially for him.

•      What are the good things you remember?

There are too many! I remember that everyday I had to go and buy a new record, by which I mean EPs or LPs. I was a spoilt child, so everyday, I was taken in the Impala car to Linking road, where there was this shop Twist and I would buy one. There used to be big parties in our house. Sanjeev Kumar, Jeetendra, Kalyanji bhai, Anandji bhai and people like that would attend.

•      And the bad times?

The bad times lasted longer than the good times. And also I was much older then. I know it sounds very filmi, but like you saw in the 1970s’ films that things are being sold from the house… it was literally like that. The one time I was really upset was when my gramophone had to be sold. But that had to be done because there was no source of income. My father was a very proud man. The Impala was sold and he obviously wouldn’t travel by bus to go anywhere. So he would just be home, and then he started drinking. I think those were really bad times.

•      Does your confidence stem from an ‘I will show the world’ attitude?

No, I don’t think so. I was not an angry, bitter person, but Sajid was. He had a very difficult time. He is five years younger than me and unfortunately he had been put in a very posh school. I went to a normal convent school but he was in a very posh school and being the poor child there was not helping. He used to be this very angry child and at one time we really thought that he was going to be a juvenile delinquent. So I am really very proud of what he does right now and he has really made something of his life. He used to go around scratching people’s cars saying ‘I don’t have a car so I will destroy this car’. He was really like this devil child. I didn’t grow up to be bitter. It was just something I had to cope with and look after Sajid too after my mom started working. Suddenly I was the responsible person of the house. By that time my mom had left my father.

I am still very insecure if I have not made a particular amount of money in a month. After a point, our house was run day-to-day. The people in our building would use our flat to play cards in. They would remove a kitty, and it would be some 30 bucks for the entire day. And that would be used to buy the milk and the grocery. And if for some reason they didn’t play that day, then those 30 bucks were not there. I remember we used to run the house on 30 bucks a day.

If all this had not happened to me I would not be who I am today. Maybe I would not have that determination to do something and be something in life. I remember in college I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I wanted to be somebody. There had to be something different about me. So I would probably go out of my way to make friends and please people. Maybe I took to dance because it made me feel special. I would go to a party or a social event and do my Michael Jackson moves and everybody would look at me. And I used to like that attention.

Salman Khan’s baby picture as revealed in one of the episodes of Farah Khan’s new show

•      How has all this experience and wisdom helped you in the show?

When I was approached to do the show I knew it had to be a slice of life show. And it could not have been just another show where the stars come and plug their films or say all sorts of things that they themselves don’t believe in. It had to be something about their lives and which is very personal to them, something that nobody knows about them. Like do you know that the sexy glamourous Bipasha is the ghar ka beta. Some of her childhood experiences are quite amazing and she had tears in her eyes when she was speaking about it.

•      Having said that, tell me something about you that nobody knows.

(Laughs) There are a lot of things that nobody knows and shouldn’t even know! I am a very domesticated housewife at heart. I listen to what my husband tells me. Not all the time, but I do respect what he says. Everyone thinks that I am this dominating creature and my poor husband must be henpecked but it’s completely the opposite. Whatever he says happens in the house, and how! I go outside and I shout and scream at people, but not in the house. In the house I’m a bheegi billi.

•      Give me an example of one thing he has said…

Just the fact that he said our children should never be publicised; I respect that and I haven’t, despite having gotten so many opportunities to be on covers of magazines and papers. But because he is not comfortable with it, it will not happen. Till he says it’s okay to do it.

•      Is SRK the most important man in your life?

He is one of the most important people in my life, regardless of man or woman. I think when you have babies; no one else stands a chance, not even the husband. The most important people in my life right now are Diva, Anya and Czar, then of course Shirish, Shah Rukh, Sajid.

•      How has Shirish (Kunder) influenced your style of filmmaking?

I have become far more aesthetic. Even in editing. He is far more a visual director than I can ever hope to be. I am little boring on that front, I am a little straightforward.

Jaanemann was far ahead of its time. I think if it would release today, the audience would be ready for it. Like a Kaminey today that you either love or hate. There is a certain audience today that has seen world cinema and is ready for this new age cinema. I think the story was a bit old fashioned but it was presented in a snazzy way. He learnt a lot from it. His new scripts are just fabulous. The way he thinks of constructing a scene is something I can’t think of. He just thinks out of the box.

•      You share a home and three kids, how much of your movies do you share.

Quite a lot. We are each others bouncing boards. Though some times my movies go over his head and he says, “I can’t understand what you are doing.” He tells me, “When I read it I am like what the hell but you do it with confidence.” He gives me all his scripts to read. Our movies will never be alike which I think is very healthy if we are going to be in the same profession.

•      Any surprises on the show?

Lots. I didn’t know that Hrithik still does one hour of speech exercises every day. He is afraid that the stammer will come back if he doesn’t do it. Or the things he went through as a child. As a 10-year-old boy he would sit in his room for 36 hours and practice one line to tell his cook, that I want to eat this, without stammering. You get goose bumps when you hear all this.